Familiar faces among Francona's coaching staff
Managerial candidate Alomar retained as bench coach; Mills takes third
CLEVELAND -- The theme found within Terry Francona's coaching staff is familiarity. The group unveiled on Wednesday is a mix of men who either have ties to the Indians manager or a history with the organization.
After being considered for the managerial post, Sandy Alomar Jr. will return for 2013 as the bench coach. The rest of Francona's staff will include Brad Mills (third-base coach), Mickey Callaway (pitching coach), Ty Van Burkleo (hitting coach), Mike Sarbaugh (first-base coach) and Kevin Cash (bullpen coach).
There is a unique blend of experience and youth, drawn from both within and outside the organization.
"I think we actually have a really well-rounded staff," Francona said. "It wasn't necessary for me to have prior relationships with people. But I think in some instances, when you're looking for coaches, that's probably the reason you're looking for guys. You've been around them and you appreciate the way they work."
After being named Cleveland's 42nd manager, Francona immediately reached out to Alomar, who served as the team's interim manager for the final six games of this past season. Alomar assumed the reins after Cleveland dismissed Manny Acta as manager on Sept. 27 because of the club's incredible second-half slide from contention.
Alomar has a long history with the Indians -- he played for the club for 11 years and joined Acta's staff in 2010 -- and he also was a teammate of Francona's in winter ball in Puerto Rico years ago. There is a chance Alomar will be considered for vacant managerial jobs this winter (Toronto and Colorado might take a look at him.)
"I think that's possible," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "There's still some managerial openings that are out there. But I know that Sandy, in talking with him, is excited about the opportunity to return back to the organization and work alongside Terry and the rest of the coaches."
Alomar confirmed as much in a conference call.
"I don't sit by the phone waiting for calls," Alomar said. "If somebody wants to interview me for a Major League managerial job, they know where I'm at. They can call the Cleveland Indians. But I don't sit there by the phone. This is a great opportunity for me. I always focus on the task in front of me. Right now, the task is being a bench coach for the Cleveland Indians with Terry Francona."
Asked if any teams had reached out to him yet, Alomar quipped, "I can't go to the moon without a rocket."
If Alomar does take a managerial job elsewhere, it would seem to make sense to have Mills slide into the bench-coach role, though Francona said there is no contingency plan in place at the moment. The 55-year-old Mills, who served as manager of the Astros for the bulk of the past three seasons, was also on Francona's coaching staffs in Philadelphia (1997-2000) and Boston (2004-09).
"He has the ability, because of our relationship, to tell me I'm wrong," Francona said. "And that's important."
The Tribe went in a different direction for its pitching coach, hiring the 37-year-old Callaway. He worked as the Indians' Minor League pitching coordinator in 2012, which was his third season in the organization. Callaway, who had stints with the Rays, Rangers and Angels from 1999-2004, previously held the pitching coach job for Class A Kinston (2011) and Class A Lake County (2010).
"We really went deep in the process to make sure we got the right guy," Francona said. "It was a tough decision, but Mickey did an incredible job of preparing and taking it on as a challenge. ... I think he's going to be a star."
Van Burkleo, 50, joins the Indians after serving as Houston's hitting coach for the final seven weeks of the 2012 season. Prior to joining the big league staff with the Astros, he worked as the organization's Minor League hitting coordinator, beginning with the 2011 season. Van Burkleo held that same role with the Angels from 2001-06, and then went on to have big league coaching roles with Oakland (hitting coach, 2007-08) and Seattle (bench coach, 2009-10).
"Van Burkleo is a guy that we researched heavily," Francona said. "I talked to managers, coaches, players throughout the league that just raved about him. When I talked to him, it just seemed like a really good fit. Hard worker. A guy that loves to live in the cage."
Francona rounded out his staff with a pair of up-and-coming coaches.
The 45-year-old Sarbaugh, who worked as Alomar's bench coach with the Indians for the final six games this past season, has been in the organization as a player, coach or manager since 1990. Sarbaugh spent the past three years as the manager of Triple-A Columbus, which won consecutive International League and Triple-A championships in 2010-11.
"I've always followed his career," said Francona, who first met Sarbaugh during the manager's previous stint in Cleveland's front office in 2001. "That was kind of an easy one. That was kind of a fun one."
For the bullpen, Francona hired the 34-year-old Cash, who hung up his cleats as a player after the 2011 season. Cash, a Major League advance scout for the Blue Jays last year, played for Francona in Boston from 2007-08 and under Mills in Houston in 2010. He spent parts of eight seasons in the Majors as a catcher, with stops with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays, Yankees and Astros.
"When he was still playing, I thought he was a potential coach in waiting," Francona said. "He's a guy who is going to rise through the coaching ranks quickly and will be a manager."
Antonetti was thrilled with the way Francona's staff came together.
"I'm excited," Antonetti said. "There's a great blend of skills and experience on the team."